Erik Bohlin, M.A.

New Hope Counseling

430 91st AVE NE, STE 8

Lake Stevens, WA 98258


How do I know if I have a sexual addiction?

The easy answer to the question is when sex, lust, porn, masturbation or whatever isn't working for the person anymore.  Typically, there are consequences the lead a person to even ask themself this question.  A spouse is upset.  We are wrestling against our morals.  There is some legal trouble.  Maybe we are tired of it temporarily.  Usually, there is a lot of denial about how much of a problem it is.  One might get to a place of honesty and ask them self following:

  1.. Have I ever thought I needed help for my sexual thinking or behavior?
  2.. That I'd be better off if I didn't keep "giving in"?
  3.. That sex or stimuli are controlling me?
  4.. Have I ever tried to stop or limit doing what I felt was wrong in my sexual behavior?
  5.. Do I resort to sex to escape, relieve anxiety, or because I feel I can't cope?
  6.. Do I feel guilt, remorse or depression afterward?
  7.. Has my pursuit of sex become more compulsive?
  8.. Does it interfere with relations with my spouse?
  9.. Do I have to resort to images or memories during sex?
  10.. Does an irresistible impulse arise in me when the other party makes the overtures for sex is offered? 
  11.. Do I keep going from one "relationship" or lover to another?
  12.. Do I feel the "right relationship" would help me stop lusting, masturbating, or being so promiscuous?
  13.. Do I have a destructive need -- a desperate sexual or emotional need for someone?
  14.. Does the pursuit of sex make me careless for myself or the welfare of my family or others?
  15.. Has my effectiveness or concentration decreased as sex has become more compulsive?
  16.. Do I lose time from work for it?
  17.. Do I turn to a lower environment when pursuing sex? Has it taken me to places in a city, I never thought I would go?
  18.. Do I want to get away from the sex partner as soon as possible after the act?
  19.. Although my spouse and I have sexual relations, is it never enough?
  20.. Have I ever been arrested for a sex-related offense?
  21.. Have I used alcohol and drugs in the past?
  22.. Have I ever been in a situation you might have considered sexually abusive?

  23.. Have I kept this a secret?

  24.. Was my family expressive of emotion or were they rather distant?

  25.. Was it difficult for me to answer these questions, or did I try to minimize and rational some of the answers?

Answering yes to any of these questions could cause us to look more closely at the possibility of an addiction.  Sex addiction is really about a coping mechanism that involve living in extremes, minimizing, denying, numbing whatever is going on that is to stressful or painful.  They could have grown up in a dysfunctional or alcoholic family.  Many addicts avoid conflict and cope by using their "drug."  Getting into a fight with one spouse and then going and masturbating is too common a scene amongst sex addicts. 

When look at whether sexual behavior is addiction we ask the person these questions: 

Did they use masturbation to cope as a youth?  How affectionate and good at expressing love was their family?  It's as if in some families, the family's expression of the "affection" thermostat was set to 55 degrees and the family called this "warm."  Growing up in the this cool environment causes us to seek anything that is warm.  They feel like something is missing.  They don't know how to talk about their feelings and what is bothering them.  What happens?  One day they discover masturbation in their youth and for them it is the best thing since 'sliced bread.'  They need it too much, because the are love starved in a sense.  In a family where love is expressed openly and the thermostat is set to 72 degrees, when they discover masturbation--yeah it feels good, but not so good that they develop a pattern of using it as a coping mechanism.  They have other ways to feel loved. 

When a person uses porn and masturbation like a drug, that is, to fix disturbances in their life, when they are sad, mad, scared, bored, lonely or any other unpleasant feeling, it can become addictive.   When a person lies about their sexual behavior, it is likely to be a sex addiction.  When there is a lot of shame, that is "I am such a bad person for doing this," it becomes more addictive.  When there are sexual behaviors that they can't talk to anyone about, it is more likely to be a sexual addiction. The sex addict has 4 core beliefs.  This comes from the work of Patrick Carnes, Ph.D. 

1.  I am unlovable.  The sex addict, like any addict at the core, feels really different from others.  There is a sense of toxic shame.  Yeah, they may feel and work hard just like the other guy and work at looking normal, but deep down they don't feel the same and really don't feel loved.  In a marriage, there complaint is that there wives don't love them enough.  They may not express this--but this is how they feel.  Let's say, they they are popular, have a lot of friends, and are "loved" by others.  They feelings on the inside are that are fooling people and that given time, they will be rejected.  In the book of Sexaholics Anonymous, it says "that first we were 'love cripples,' then sex addicts.  We were taking what was lacking in our lives."  This leads us to the next core belief.

2.  If I share everything with you, you will reject me.  So they begin to hide and not share honestly what is going on in their life.  This is not just the sexual indiscretions, but just about anything they think presents themselves in a poor light.  In some ways, sex addicts may look great and better than average on the outside, while on the inside they feel death.  They live a double life, and not just about sex.  As a result of being dishonest, then their marriage begins to suffer.  It creates a wedge between them and their spouse and then they really start to think that if "I share everything, I will be rejected."  So they lie.  They are in denial, which is not so much lying, but really an unawareness.  We fool ourselves so that we can live with ourselves and sleep at night.  They minimize.  They admit to some behaviors but normalize them and justify them.  We defend and explain.  They say, "well, it is not like we were having a good sexual relationship."  Could be that the sexual addiction is the cause of that.  They usually don't think so and think of it the other way around.  If I were having a better relationship with my wife, I would have this trouble.  Chances are they came to the marriage with this.  They think, "I am just like all the other guys."  They develop an "accounting system" which is present in any addiction.  This is the list of sexual behaviors they haven't done to convince ourselves they were not addicts.  "I haven't gone to a strip club or a prostitute"  "It is not like a masturbate everyday."  "It is not like I do it any more than every three months."  "I am not really out of control, I just need to work hard at this."  Eventually, if it is a sex addiction which is a progressive disease, it will be getting worse and not better.  We then do a behavior on the accounting list, but move it to the acceptable list to help us stay in denial. 

3.  If I depend on people or God, they will let me down.  Sex addicts are very independent, self-directed people.  They don't want to rely on anyone, because they feel that they could be let down.  They have a hard time trusting people.  This usually comes from their dysfunctional family growing up.  This is not about blaming, but identify where the became "ill."  The "addiction" becomes the "trusted source of comfort."  We don't know how to ask for help.  That is why this usually goes on and on and on.

4.  Sex becomes my more important need.  It may not seem like it, but really we live from sexual experience to sexual experience.  It begins to dictate our lives.  The root of the word addiction in Latin is "ad dictum," meaning, to the dictator.  These core belief are present in most addictions, drugs, pot, alcohol, sex, food, working, gambling,  and spending. 

In counseling we address these 4 core beliefs.  We have them start to break these rules.  We encourage people to talk in a safe and confidential place.  Usually with their therapist, support group, or 12 step group (SA-Sexaholics Anonymous).  We don't encourage lying to spouses, but we don't think it is wise to share everything, like their sexual history timeline with their spouse.  We need to help them get used to sharing honestly with them selves and then a sponsor.  Their spouse is typically coming from the place [and it is an understandable and healthy place] that their spouse has committed adultery, at least at a mental level.  We help the sex addict start to "get sober" as we call it.  That is they stop using porn, masturbation, etc. and they start to develop new ways of coping.  They start to feel emotion again or possibly for the first time a a deeper level.  We help them ask for help for what they need in life.  We help they develop a better relationship with God.  Many people have a relationship and have been going to church, but their addiction has gotten in the way. 

This is just a glimpse of the work we can do to gain recovery from this problem that seems to be affecting so many of us.

Contact us for more information or help.